Despite what the headlines may say, indie bookstores continue to thrive, going above and beyond their purpose of connecting readers with the perfect book by serving as centers of culture and community in towns and cities from coast to coast.
Since the dissolution of Borders in 2011, independent bookstores across the United States have stepped up to fill the gap in the market. According to the American Booksellers Association (ABA), between 2009 and 2015, the number of independent bookstores across the country rose by 35 percent.
Here are just a few of the outstanding indie bookstores the USA has to offer.
Strand Book Store—New York, NY
The Strand is an quintessential feature in one of the most literary cities in the world. The store is home to 18 miles of new, used, and rare books, which almost guarantees that visitors will be able to find exactly what they’re looking for. And if you choose to use the Strand’s Books by the Foot service, Strand employees will create custom book collections for interior designers, set designers, or personal collections.
Left Bank Books—St. Louis, MO
Left Bank Books was opened by a group of graduate students who wanted to ensure that readers could find all kinds of literature on the store’s shelves. And almost 50 years later, the bookshop is still living up to that ideal with its vast selection of new and used books. With a robust events schedule and book clubs for readers of all interests, Left Bank Books is a community center just as much as it is a bookstore.
Powell’s Books—Portland, OR
A Portland icon, Powell’s Books headquarters (dubbed the City of Books) claims the distinction of being the largest independent bookstore in the world. Occupying a full city block, the City of Books has nine color-coded rooms and buys about 3,000 books per day.
The Last Bookstore—Los Angeles, CA
Perhaps what sets The Last Bookstore apart from other indie bookstores is the building itself—the bookstore is housed in what was once the atrium of a bank. There are even books hidden away in what used to be the bank vault. And finding the perfect book at The Last Bookstore is always a treasure hunt: most of the fiction section has no discernable shelving pattern.
As Yellow Taxi Press is Boston-based, any list of independent bookstores wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a few of the bookshops in the Boston area.
Brookline Booksmith is a gem of an establishment; with a wide selection of titles and convenient display tables for discounted books, bestsellers, and staff favorites, the Booksmith is an utterly browsable mecca for bibliophiles. A canopy of twinkling lights and beautiful displays of local crafts and goods add to the ambiance of the shop and make visitors want to stick around a while.
Across the Charles River in Cambridge, the Harvard Book Store is another magnet for book lovers. Despite its proximity to the university and its shared name, no, the Harvard Book Store is not related to Harvard University. But what it does have is a beautifully curated selection of titles and an impressive calendar of events. And head downstairs for an equally impressive spread of remaindered and used books, including sizable used sections for both children’s and YA books and graphic novels.
No matter your location, chances are that there is an independent bookstore in your area for you to explore. If you don’t know where your nearest indie bookstore is, IndieBound’s Indie Bookstore Finder can locate it for you so that you can be on your way to enjoying all that indies have to offer .